Well, we didn’t exactly pitch a wang dang doodle (lyrics to the song here), but we did have a pleasant family gathering at my house yesterday to celebrate Father’s Day and our daughter-in-law Sarah’s birthday. Of course part of the celebration meant playing with our grandchildren. We took them to the swimming pool, and the play ground, and we let them ride their little electric car and tractor.
But one of the kids most enjoyable pleasures is watching trains.
If you go east about three blocks from my house, the road will dead end before the railrood tracks. Or, if you look south from my front yard through a clearing in the trees you can see the same track about the same distance as it bends around.
Elijah is three now and Ari is one. For about a year when Elijah has been at our house every time he hears the train whistle, he will come get me and we will run out to the front porch to watch the train. Or sometimes, if my pickup truck is parked in the right spot, we can sit on the tailgate and see both spots on the track.
I remember last summer when Elijah screamed, like it was an emergency, “Grandpa!” and I came running from the other room to take him out to watch the trains. He is a little more subdued now, but he still likes to watch every one. A couple weeks ago when he was with us for the weekend, just before time to go home we heard one more whistle. He looked at me, then thought for a moment and said, “We can just sit here in the living room and listen.” Then he thought for a second or two more and took my hand and led me back out to the porch to watch.
Now Ari is watching the trains with us too. If I don’t pick her up and carry her out, it will break her heart. I can’t hear the trains whistles now without thinking of the kids.
Of course train whistles are famous in country music for having a sad lonesome sound–and sometimes I get a melancholy feeling, wondering if the day will come when the kids will lose their innocence and enthusiasm. It’s hard to imagine a sullen thirteen-year-old getting excited about a railroad train. But not all teenagers are sullen all the time; I’ve met a few cheerful confident adolescents. And most of the others grow out of it.
Then I think of the day in the future, when Elijah and Ari will have children of their own. Maybe they will come visit me; maybe I’ll be in a wheelchair, but they will push me outside to watch the trains when they hear the whistle.